blood oranges have arrived!

i’ve been scouring my cookbooks for blood orange recipes that i can use during this limited window of opportunity. the obvious one is the risotto with duck and blood oranges, which is to-die-for delicious. i also tried orange sorbet, which i think would work better as a sherbet with some cream and extra sugar. also, truly, i got a little over-zealous with the lime juice

i tried my sweet potato hash recipe again, this time with the ‘maltese sauce,’ but the sauce was foul and i had to throw away the leftover potatoes after not eating much of it to begin with. another flaw was that i didn’t have smoked turkey meat, just some chicken tenders. ah, well.

mostly i want to use one of the beautifully-photographed citrus desserts from ‘a passion for desserts’ in my new year’s menu, but i can’t decide between one of those and the more basic, more universally pleasing chocolate souffles.

cooking resolutions for 2007

Culinary Highlight: Hard to pick one: my resolution was to try (at least) one new recipe a week so I learned a ton of new things. But braising new potatoes and making tomato tarts in teh summer will are the two things that are definitely in the standard repertoire!
washington post food chat, 19 december 06

so i’ve been thinking hard about my own ‘culinary resolutions’ since reading this tidbit from kim o’donnell’s weekly food chat.
i want to maintain my cooking ‘to-try’ list, but i want to work harder to actually cook the dishes on it. at the same time, i want to build up a sort of repetoire, and work with my more basic recipes instead of just going for the challenge. i have a whole list now of ‘quick and easy’ in my database. on top of that, i want to keep trying new things.

so here’s what i’m thinking:
1 recipe per week from ‘quick and easy’ OR ‘new best recipe’
1 recipe per week from ‘to-try list’

and, for the remainder of the winter, one recipe per week from braises and stews
1. winter market chicken
2. sara’s persian chicken
3. game hens in a pot
4. moroccan lamb
5. veal stew

also, a propos of seasonal cooking, i want to work with the dessert recipes (listed by season) in my passion for desserts. either something straight from the book or combined with another recipe i already have.
1. lemon mousse with citus compote (BLOOD ORANGES!)
2. [chocolate]-banana napoleons
3. bread budding (luscious chocolate desserts)
4. double chocolate hot chocolate
5. hazelnut sandwich cookies
6. honey-cream strawberry parfaits
7. milk chocolate cheesecake
8. ice wine ice cream with strawberry compote
9. strawberry ginger sodas with orange sherbet
10. berry creme fraiche cake
11. bing cherry filo rolls
12. black forest brownies
13. candied ginger shortbread with peach-blackberry compote
14. mascarpone custard wih summer fruits
15. red berry-white chocolate trifles
16. white peach melba
17. autumn summer pudding
18. raspberry-honey cream tartlets
19. french plum tart
20. orange marmalade tart
21. orange pound cake with concord grape compote
22. ricotta cheesecake

i want to make more efficient use of my freezer. i want to try all of the bookmarked brownie recipes from chocolate, chocolate and keep some frozen at all times. same for the odd roll of cookie dough, out of any book that appeals to me at a given time. i want to always keep some pizza dough in there. i want to spend a day, like last year, making dumplings and spring rolls so that i have them frozen.
1. chocolate wafer cookies
2. KA chocolate chip cookies
3. banana split cookies
4. madelines
5. patterned ice box cookies (see KA Cookies or WS cookies)
6. ruby jewel cookies
7. cigarettes russes
8. hazelnut sandiwch cookies
9. mini black-and-whites

i need to use the frozen cherries i’ve been keeping since last summer (chocolate-cherry bread, perhaps?)
and i want to get back into breadmaking. i will develop a list of fancy breads to try and meanwhile keep fresh bread easily at hand. perhaps keep the slices frozen individually or in pairs for easy, non-spoiling access.

what about baking? aside from cookies and brownies, i want to get some scones and muffins into my freezer stash...w

if by some chance i have continued farmers market access come spring, i need to get better at freezing the fruit for later use. ESPECIALLY the strawberries. winter supermarket strawberries don’t even belong in the same journal entry as farmers market berries.

p.s. i have this recurring fantasy of starting a small garden, either in a window box or on my roof. something basic. a few herbs, maybe, or some flowers. eventually, though, i’d like to try growing real things. carrots, or berries, or potatoes. something fun and edible...


holiday cookie fest, courtesy of the washington post

i made SEVEN kinds of cookies this weekend:
chocolate-orange madelines
white chocolate chocolate chip cookies
orange chocolate hearts (pictured)
cranberry white chocolate drop cookies
indulgent butter cookies
cranbery-clementine sandwich cookies
chocolate spice cookies
mini-bronwies with raspberry cream and chocolate ganache

and i learned a lot. most important, that i DON’t LIKE cookies with a ton of butter. this potentially explains my partiality for cut-out cookies such as my chocolate wafers but also my love for my king arthur flour cookies, which combine shortening and butter. i also learned that while some of my best recipes might be for cutout cookies, like the hearts, but the process is enough to make a sane person nuts.

i think that the overall moral of the day was that i am going to cut back on my cookie-making and try to keep a fairly simple repetoire. and also, never again do 7 cookies in a weekend. my real motivation was that i hadn’t made cookies in forever, and i wanted to make some as holiday gifts, and the washington post cookie section came out last week and i couldn’t resist. it helped that i had no specific plans for the weekend and ample opportunity, what with work being lame and all, to shop for provisions. and even more than that, i already had most of the requisite supplies in my ‘pantry.’

p.s. the brownies were actually sort of tasteless, in the gourmet turnip way. i still like the idea, and i bought these very cute mini-muffin pans for them that came out a perfect one-bite size. should i attempt the recipe again, i will use a different brownie recipe as my base.


don't even get me started on the chocolate fountain (thanksgiving cooking)

so, my “being in charge” of leftovers night turned out to be, as sam seaborn might say, an honorary thing. i was permitted to make my linzer hearts (which, because of me being COMPLETELY STUPID, THREE TIMES, were dry and nearly inedible--at least, to my taste they were) but had to totally improvise because i forgot my cookie cutters. note to self: don’t ever try to make cookies using a drinking glass as a cookie cutter.

i had to watch mom like a hawk with the turkey because, ironically, i knew more about brining a turkey (thanks to my obsessive persual of kim o’donnell’s weekly online chats) than she did (but i did learn how to correctly measure the internal temperature of a bird). i got put in charge of heating up all of the williams-sonoma appetizers that we ordered, all of which were totally yummy. and the turkey, incidentally, came out quite well.

the problem came during dessert, when i was (for reasons unexplained) put in charge of making the chocolate fondue fountain work. i begged to not have to do it, to no avail. and the result was an unmitigated disaster that left me feeling pretty crummy. i couldn’t get the damn chocolate to melt all the way. chocolate started spraying everywhere. it was crappy chocolate to begin with, because normal chocolate doesn’t get enough viscosity to flow through a fountain in the first place. and when i suggested adding vegetable oil to thin out the chocolate (a suggestion i pulled directly from the instruction manual) i was completely rebuffed. i was so ashamed.

friday’s crisis turned out to be the dual creme brulees. the prep of the custards went well enough; shockingly, the creme brulee mix mom bought at williams-sonoma was quick, easy and tasty. i had my usual difficulty (despite all of my practicing!) with the from-scratch custard, but in the end we managed all right. the problem was that the custard didn’t have long enough to chill. or should i say, that was the first problem. the custard had only been chilling about 6 hours when i pulled them out to torch them. at this point, mom demaned to know WHY we hadn’t made the custards on thursday. i nearly lost it--i had asked, thursday afternoon, if we should make the custards to give them plenty of time to chill. i reminded her of this and we moved on. secondly, we couldn’t find the kitchen torch. then we found it, but we were out of butane. thirdly, since the custard was not adequately chilled, i needed to pack the broiler tray with ice. which we were out of. fourth, we only had splenda instead of proper brown sugar for the crust. and none of us had ever broiled a creme brulee before, so mom had me overcook one and then undercook the second. TOTAL DISASTER.

everything else, especially the pot pies, came out great. i was pleased to be vindicated in my pleas for the brie soup--everyone loved it. we served it with a garlic-parmesan baguette from wegman’s, which was totally yummy.

i’ll have to try and make some of the w-s phyllo appetizers on my own some day. the two particularly good ones were the truffle risotto ones and the brie/apple chutney variety.


long-overdue update

much to report on since my internet went down at home. i’ve been having great fun with braises, obviously, and this week, my impending departure for paris and NJ (for campaigning) forced me to finally play with all of those “easy suppers” i’ve been pulling for the past few months, with varying degrees of success. friday night i made rosemary and orange chicken. it was good, but not particularly stellar. saturday i made a tortilla pie, which was excellent except that i got a little too spice-happy with the paprika and red chiles. too hot to eat! sunday i finally made the brie soup and a middle-eastern recipe from my spice book, prompted by the presence of lamb chops at the farmers market. i am sad to report that while the braising of the lamb went really well, i flaked out when reducing the sauce for the lamb and ended up with tar. so i had semi-dry lamb with brown rice pilaf--not exactly an appetizing meal. fortunately i’d had the brie soup. dessert was equally disappointing--tried to eat the rice pudding from last weekend, but didn’t like the taste NOR the taste of the chocolate pudding (also from last weekend). i consoled myself with a bailey’s-spiked hot chocolate.

in other news, doughnuts:

excellent, simple ricotta dough that made moist and chewy doughnuts. caveat: they must be eaten straightaway. they do NOT keep well. i was devastated on monday morning to find them almost inedible.

starting to plan the thanksgiving/leftovers menu. although i was nominally put in charge, i’ve had very little input so far. i think i’ve sold mom on the brie soup as an appetizer, and we’re getting a really nice selection of phyllo appetizers from williams-sonoma: apple chutney with brie and mushroom truffle risotto. i’ll have to try those sometime on my own, but they should be a good start. we’re also going to make some latkes and i am definitely in charge of dessert: chocolate creme brulee with some fresh fruit. i was originally thinking of a rustic tart, but ccame to my senses today when i realized exactly how much pie crust that would actually be. so then i started thinking chocolate. first thought was, obviously, a molten cake, but i think the brulee will be fun and tasty and also easy. i’m going to make some linzer hearts for dad and i also want to do the cute little brownie buttons from dorie greenspan’s book. (p.s.--finally caught up on all of that scanning! i think i’ve got, for now, all of my recipes actually in my recipe program!)


another picture-perfect sunday evening

spent the entire afternoon, practically, on this one, but for a change i completely nailed the timing. dinner consisted of mushroom soup (out of this month’s martha stewart living), and a braised sausage recipe from my new braising book. i combined the sausage recipe (which uses lentils) with a recipe out of my rice cooker book to make braised italian sausages with cremini mushrooms and brown rice. the soup took, by far, the longest, because all i really had to do was brown the sausage and then throw everything into the rice cooker. the soup was very satisfactory, but needed more salt, and also more mushroom and less leek. i was overall very pleased. the soup, alas, did not reheat well the next day.

then, to make it extra hunky-dory, i made the bread fresh in the afternoon. spent the rest of the week making toast and sandwiches. excellent! i felt particularly clever after this one...

(got some new halloween candles from papyrus, just for the hell of it. i like to be festive sometimes!)

falling into....

having great luck with my braises and stews book. tonight, i modified the sausage and lentils recipe (since i hate lentils) and combined it with a recipe from my rice cooker book to make braised sausages with brown rice. i cooked the rice partway and then threw in, as per my braising recipe, some tomato paste, a pile of cooked mushrooms, and a bay leaf. yum-my. the only bad part was that after my mushroom soup (FINALLY found a recipe that works from this month’s issue of martha stewart living) and the huge slice of french bread (which i made this afternoon), i could barely do more than taste it.

it’s been an excellent weekend for cooking. last week i also tried the braised curried chicken and some jasmine rice. makes me really glad i finally remembered to steal the rice cooker from mom.

the apple cake out of my new “passion for” cookbook was really pretty and fun, but i guess i overcooked it. i also KNOW that i didn’t make the batter quite right, because the butter wasn’t evenly distributed. i’m going to pull more stuff out of that book--i love it, and i love how it is divided up by seasons--to play with this week. i anticipate having some time, since we’re in recess, and an audience of eaters if i bring the leftovers to work. also on this week’s list: plum pastry and the apple splits. i made honey creme anglaise to go with the apple splits. (which i was going to make tonight but now i am not so sure...)

my new resolution, since it was one of the reasons i justified my impulse buy of the digital camera, is to take pictures of my creations for my journal and my side project, the little blog.


break fast

a bit late, i fear, but i wanted to put something into my journal about how much fun i had cooking after i got home from shul on yom kippur. i literally spent the entire afternoon hunched over the stove/oven, trying some new things and making good on old failures.

for example, saturday night i successfully made risotto for the SECOND time. this time i made it with red wine and beef, and it was quite tasty (although, as usual, it could do with more salt). i’m, like, afraid of salt. i also, at long last, gave the cannoli ice cream another go--i even walked all the way down to vaccarro’s in union station for cannoli shells--and even though my ice cream mixer pooped out halfway through, it was still completely delicious. i made the wise decision to omit the anise seeds this time.

sunday i fooled around with leftover asian stuff from the freezer--some of the wontons, one of my spring rolls, and made some donburri with a batch of honey mushrooms from the farmers market.

but back to monday. i spent the afternoon experimenting with my first pot of chicken stock. there is a lot of room for improvement, alas, but at least i’ve finally tried it. i had a difficult time skimming it properly, and now that i’ve had it in the frige and freezer, i’ve noticed a layer of fat that’s congealed on the top. ew. i’ve been cooking with it anyway.

the high point of monday HAD to be my new coq au vin recipe from the braises and stews book. much better than my stovetop martha stewart recipe, and completely made by the farm fresh stuff i threw in: baby carrots and potatoes, with the leftover brunelli di montalcino from saturday’s risotto. easy and to-die-for delicious. i even got to use some of the fresh chicken stock. the carrots in particular were heavenly, esepcially the way they blended into the baby yukon gold potatoes.

i also gave the challah another try, this time mixing all of the ingredients in the CORRECT order, and i used my mixer instead of the bread machine. this, i think, was a wise choice. i’ll definitely try a regular challah in the bread machine, but next time i try a special one, i will do it properly with the mixer. it took forever to rise, nearly twice as long as the recipe predicted in some cases, but was sweet and delicious and made, a week later, some of the yummiest french toast ever. i also used it all week with some pear-berry jam from, of course, the farmers market.


rosh hashanah cooking update

well, it was a total wash. the pomegranate chicken recipe i found was easy and fun to make, although a bit lengthy, but the end result was too sweet and overcooked. should i try it again, i should use pomegranate juice instead of pomegranate molasass-i expect the flavor will be less concentrated and less syrupy sweet.

the challah was a total disaster and nearly inedible. it was so bad that it was nearly unsuitable for french toast this morning! i think it’s because i got cute and decided to try the bread machine. also, i was so intent on follwing the recipe that i poured salt directly into the yeast--following directions!!---and killed the yeast. the dough hardly rose at all!

tomorrow i will attempt the brisket. i had another go at the chantrelle/mascarpone macaroni and cheese today and this time the results were edible and delicious, although next time i won’t get so sprinkle-happy with the basil. it does mix well with the mascarpone, but i find the green color off-putting and i also felt like i couldn’t taste anything but the basil.


getting ready for fall

i was watching jamie cook yesterday out of ‘the best recipe’ cookbook, and i was feeling all inspired to try some new things. if i ever feel like i have time. i look forward to getting my kitchen implements back from the hamptons, and having weekends and nights to cook without feeling like i only have 1 or 2 nights a week at home.

but what to cook? i want to try many many new things this fall, especially out of the spice book. i also need to give risotto another try, and of course all kinds of pizzas. i want to pull some new tricks from my giada books, and some lovely soups and stews, and maybe just some easy casserole type things. i have lots of macaroni and cheese recipes to play with.

maybe the key this year will be trying to keep it simple, and then playing on friday and saturday nights.
macaronis and asian messes during the week and then fun things like steak and roasts and coq au vin and stews for the weekends!

bring it on!
slowly i will start browsing my cookbooks and recipe lists for some special stuff to put on a wish list.
i like having my goals. it helps me stay organized.


the big cooking with mikey weekend (hamptons cooking)

so, this is, actually, several weeks after the fact, but i’ve been wanting to include a cooking in the hamptons update, and the weekend with mikey was certainly the most eventful.

the menu had been set:
friday night
italian meat antipasto
pizza margherita with yellow tomato sauce (“summer sauce”)
fresh pasta ‘rags’ with pesto
porcini mushroom fettucine with proscuitto parmesan cream sauce
fruit and cream

saturday night
grilled shrimp
marinated seafood salad
rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes
grilled skirt steak
nutella and pastry tarts with fresh fruit (peaches/blueberries, strawberries/raspberries/blackberries)

the menu was a total success, i am pleased to say, and mikey and i cooked together quite well. i was allowed to make most of the pasta. mikey made the pizza early and brought it with us. i was also put in charge of the pastry cream, and i think i am really starting to get the hang of it. almost. maybe.

other cooking experiments have gone over well, too. i’ve made loads of ice cream, mostly the mascarpone base. i tried a gelato (dulce de leche), but the bowl wasn’t frozen enough and i never got more than custard out of it. paella was a great hit, but it took too long to cook on the teensy little stove. i had to simmer the rice in batches within the pan, so it took 4 times as long! i thought it was a blast, but mom was getting antsy and forbid me from ever starting to cook dinner for everyone after 8.30 ever again. ron (marks) marinated the chicken in some rioja before cooking it in the paella, and ron and dino got wasted and made patatas bravas to go with dinner.

by far the best experiment off my wish list was the morning of the chocolate pancakes, the first weekend. i made the dark chocolate pancakes from chocolate, chocolate (i forgot the white chocolate chips in part of the batch) and dino took the leftover fruit and made a compote with some grand marnier. it was, like, sinful it was so good.

i got to play with some of the muffin/cornmeal recipes, and i’d like to do a batch of scones. i also made a triple chocolate mousse cake for camille. the recipe was weird, because it used gelatin to keep the mousse in a shape, but overall i was completely satisfied by it, and even a bit proud that i had managed something so complex.

now we’re beating down on the last weekend of the season, and it’s time to get serious. i want to try one more gelato, and either a sorbet or a granita or both. i’ve still got the frozen sour cherries i lugged up with me the first weekend, and they’re calling to me. there’s certainly no point in bringing them back, after all! i do want to play with my recipes from ‘spice,’ but i’m not sure they are apprpriate. especially since last weekend dino, amanda and i had a total blast just making junk food. dino made sliders, i made my blue corn fried chicken tenders, and amanda made burritos. maybe i’ll just keep it simple, make sure i have my recipes with me, and do something on a whim for a change!


bridal shower catering

so camille and i went nutsy cooking for the shower. to begin with, i drove myself insane trying to decide what kind of cake to make, and then had to run all over the place trying to find cheese. i also ended up having to scrounge sketchy cream cheese out of the fridge/freezer to make the roasted strawberries and cream cheese cake. and, horrifically, i didn’t use enough strawberries!

on the other hand, i did enjoy my chocolate cookie crust, and the cake went in a flash at the party. the cookies were more or less a succuess, and the kids totally devoured the ice cream. i went out on a limb and made the ‘low fat’ chocolate ice cream--it was very, very rich. next time, i’ll just make yogurt and not work as much with the condensed milk. i think using unsweetened chocolate was another mistake, even though it is technically lower fat because there is no sugar. but the fun part was all of the people who didn’t realize that the cake was homemade, but thought it came from a store! i was very proud. i even saved the extra linzertorte dough for an ice cream experiment.

sadly, i personally was not a fan of the cream cheese cake. it tasted...i can’t describe it, but i didn’t like it much. at least everyone else did, and it was a worthy experiment for the strawberries.


paella, tofu, and mofongo!

last weekend was a bit...out of control.
firstly, i determined that the weekend menu would be paella on friday, tofu steak with rice on saturday, and mofongo (fried mashed plantains) on sunday. so that was already ambitious.

secondly, i acquired a new book of chocolate cookie recipes and decided to take the weekend and explore all of the ones i felt worth trying--mostly the “healthy” ones, to see what i could see, but also a few experiments.

then, on a whim, i decided that since i had the entire weekend, and a full pantry, to finally have another go at my holy grail of baking: martha stewart’s danish dough recipe. and on a second whim, i decided to finally try the bittersweet chocolate chunk bread from chocolate, chocolate.

i was exhausted at the end of it--but pleased. best of all, it only required--out of the entire weekend--a brief stop at whole foods on friday night for a few specialty ingredients. i did eat a late dinner all three nights, i admit, but i was overall very proud of my attempts for the weekend.

to begin with: paella. it took much longer to simmer than i thought it would, but the effort of inaugurating my new paella pan was well worth it. i took the recipe from my tapas book, and halved it. i accidentally used too much tomato sauce, but other than that, it was quite tasty and overall very simple to make. what took so long was allowing the stock/sauce mixture to simmer with the rice.

saturday morning i started off with a loaf of bread (note to self: always use wheat gluten with bread machine recipes--there was a marked difference in the strength of the bread and the texture). then i dove into the cookie book and tackled:

tofu chocolate chip cookies
“banana split” cookies (banana cookies with chocolate chips and bits of strawberry)
white chocolate chocolate chip cookies
“nearly nonfat” chocolate cookies (with chips)

the tofu cookies, although it was odd to work with the tofu, are surprisingly tasty. the nearly nonfats are pretty good, but also a bit crunchy. i liked the flavor of the white CC cookies, but the chocolate caused them to spread just all over the place into these huge, flat, crispy discs. i liked the crunch, but not the spread. the banana split cookies are fun, but i am not sure how much of a fan i am of the addition of rolled oats that the banana cookie recipe called for.

the danish dough: as expected, when i approached the recipe with the proper tools (like the stand mixer) and the proper time (the entire weekend out in front of me), the challenges were considerably less than i had imagined. yes, it took the entire day. yes, the butter was messy. but once i did the original kneading, i could see how it would come together: the dough has to absorb the butter (hence the long periods of refrigeration) and you have to create the layers. i’m still unclear as to whether or not i executed the layer creation properly. i tested a danish on sunday morning, though, and found nothing to complain about: it was fresh, buttery, and not all loaded down with icings and sugars like a commercial product would be. next time, i want to use butter in the inital dough but margerine or some other alternative in the later stage, and also substitute some whole wheat flour for the regular flour. if there is a next time...but now, at last, i can try all of those little danish dough variations in the MS baking book, like the sugar buns and the chocolate danish.

flatbread: took FOREVER, and i’m not sure if the result was entirely worthwhile. also, to my surprise, the dough never really ‘rose’ the way i’ve come to expect dough to rise. it almost looked like really thick cookie dough all the way until i pulled it out of the oven and got bread instead. it is yummy, but nothing especially outstanding, and i don’t know if i consider the time expenditure to be worth it. especially since the dough is not easily frozen.

what really consumed my sunday and made me feel more tired was yet another trip to the farmers market, where i totally overstocked on cherries, blueberries and raspberries. mostly because they looked just so good, i couldn’t stand the thought of not having them later. so i bought them anyway and spent the entire afternoon prepping and cooking them so as to still have them available later this summer, when i don’t have the chance to hit the market every week. with most of the cherries i made compote for the danishes, although i froze at least a quart of them for later snacking; i froze a lot of the berries and plan to make a frozen yogurt with them, and also threw a lot of them into a fruit salad. i got ricotta and mascarpone cheese and made cannoli cream, which tastes like a whipped cream. it’s incredible. i just can’t decide if it’s better or just different from the more icing-like variety i’ve gotten at vacarro’s in the past.

so, the tofu--i wanted to try something just with tofu to see if it could really be edible and the verdict is...not really. it was good, but i think as an addition to some meat instead of as a substituion. the rice i made was awful. simultaneously too sweet and too spicy and just...gross. i used the jeweled golden rice recipe from the cherries section of the eating well magazine i picked up last week and i was very disappointed. in fact, the only really satisfying recipe to come from that section has been the compote recipe from the cherry slump. the BBQ chicken was...interesting, but not great, and the pannacotta compote uses dried cherries, which totally changes the taste and texture of the mixture.

and the mofongo, i was shocked, but it was actually really good. i threw some ground turkey into the mushroom sauce, and poured that over the plantains, and the result was surprisingly sweet with a really interesting texture. i couldn’t eat it every day, or even in particularly large quantities, but i did like the adventure of the entire thing.


quinoa experiments again

so tonight i finally made my quinoa casserole with peruvian potatoes and cheese. except that i couldn’t steam the potatoes and i just threw them in, and i got cute with the cheese and used jack and gouda instead of just plain cheddar. (and i forgot to add the garlic) the result was interesting--definitely had potential. the potatoes, however, absolutely need to be pre-cooked in some way (steamed, for example) before being thrown in the casserole, and i think the garlic would have been welcome.

it was like macaroni and cheese, but with a totally different texture. it was infinitely more edible than my last quinoa experiment, which was just bland quinoa cooked in stock with osso bucco. i’d be interested to give this another go. i also think that apples would taste delicious baked in a recipe like this--especially a mild one like a gala or a fuji or a pink lady.

had another good food weekend--my wagamama explosion for neena, et al, went really well and produced some yummy food. shockingly, the three mushroom soup was the weakest of the lot; the tofu, teriyaki salad and cha han were the best. i used real tofu, pressed and everything, instead of my usual boxed tofu, and i was very pleasantly surprised by how nicely it fried. next time i’ll leave out the chili powder so that it tastes yummy with a sweet and sour sauce. i also want to try cooking with it more, like maybe some of the ‘grub’ recipes.

sunday morning i got my cherries, strawberries, and found some blueberries. the cherries were excellent and i even found some sour ones and made a slump (yum). i threw the blueberries in a salad, but the peaches i got from whole foods werent quite ripe enough and sort of throw my salad flavor totally off-base. plus, i thinik i figured out why the recipe calls for lemon juice--to keep the fruit from browning. i’ve been eating it in bits--first with some sweetened yogurt cheese and also plain. the yellow cherries, unfortunately, totally browned out in the salad and are all bruised because i had to pit them first. very sad.

i made a cherry compote with some of the cherries and used that to flavor some plain yogurt and i really enjoyed the result. what other fruits can i try that with?


fresh from the farmers market

wow, so this weekend saw a lot of seriously interesting cooking. after the tama rice on friday, i dedicated saturday to lasagna and cannoli ice cream. instead of using ricotta cheese in the lasagna, i wanted to try an idea i found on the stonyfield yogurt website after researching some uses for yogurt in cooking. so i took some low-fat yogurt, strained it, and made yogurt cheese, which i then subbed for the ricotta. i mostly used giada de laurentis’ recipe, with the bechamel sauce, but i took a page from my CIA cookbook and rolled some mixed mushrooms into it. then i rolled the noodles up and baked them like that. very tasty. the yogurt cheese--i think i liked it better than ricotta, because it was smoother, and didn’t combine with the egg to turn into a frittata, which is what happened the last time i tried lasagna. the mushrooms were just enough. i was quite pleased.

less pleasing was the ice cream. i feel pretty good about the custard part of it--i know i did that as best i could. the problem came while mixing. i hadn’t been careful enough attaching the mixing bowl, so i stopped the mix halfway through to re-lock the bowl. unforunately, this froze some of the mix in awkward places along the bowl, so the dasher wouldn’t churn. i had to empty the bowl, wash it, and start again. the results--honestly, i don’t know how much that may or may not have affected it. i know it didn’t change the taste, which was my major problem with the recipe. it called for anise, which i don’t like--it tasted like licorice-flavored ricotta cheese. the cheese was a bit overpowering, as well, although the bits that had a nice bit of chocolate in them were agreeable enough. so on top of everything else, i didn’t add enough chocolate chunks. it also froze VERY hard. next time, i need to take the container out a while before i plan on eating it so that it softens nicely.

today i hit up the farmers market. twice. i scoured and scoured and found one guy with fresh cherries, which were INCREDIBLE. i got a ton of strawberries, freezing most of them for smoothies this week. i got an extra pint to make ice cream with and also a pint for eating. i tried some sugar snap peas with dinner (more on that in a bit), and a quart of fresh yogurt (smoothies). i found a dairy and got some milk, chocolate milk, and cream. yum. it came in glass bottles. the sweet potatoes were all gone, so i took a detour to whole foods for sweet potatoes, bananas, and turkey meat. at the meat vendor, i got two chicken breasts and some ground beef. i also found a stand with a pack of burger patties, so i picked up some of those as well.

so, onto the meals--used up the last of my bread making a sandwich, which was tasty, and spent the afternoon making ice cream. first i hulled and cut 2 quarts of strawberries. then i pitted a pint of cherries. the cream was fresh, and incredible. i started with the strawberry ice cream, being careful to lock it this time. it was a little messy, but overall a success. i tried a totally different recipe from my williams-sonoma book, because the “ultimate” recipes were a little too complicated and used too many ingredients for my personal taste this afternoon. so it was just cream, milk, sugar, and strawberries. not even any eggs. simple and yummy. i’m going to try to finish the cherry ice cream late tonight. i want to give the bowl a chance to re-freeze, but i don’t want to wait until tomorrow because i think the cherries will be bad by then.

so, for dinner i took two of the patties, mixed in some ground dried shiitake, and marinated it in teriyaki sauce for an asian burger (topped with a slice of mozzarella, on a whole-wheat bun). it was great--so much flavor, so much moisture, no ketchup needed. really a treat. the snap peas were tasty, but not noticeably different from snow peas except that they were stringier and a little harder to eat. i made a grilled sweet potato salad with mangoes and onions. i didn’t actually eat the mangoes, but broiling it all together did give the potatoes an extra bit of tang. i think next time i should spice it a little bit more. topped it all off with a smirnoff ice. when else is that a great drink to enjoy than on a late sunday afternoon with a freshly grilled burger?

for snacks this week i want to do fresh fruit--especially to finish off the nectarines--with the yogurt cheese. i hope to do a smoothie every morning for breakfast, along with a slice of banana bread.

so far, i’ve been tryng to cook mostly off my ‘summer’ list and my ‘to-try’ list, so that i can really explore all of the new recipes i’ve collected recently. if neena and louis come this weekend, i want to do a wagamama menu (maybe the three mushroom soup? i did hit up the mushroom man today) and really enjoy some of the stuff from there. lunch this week is mostly going to be salad sandwiches and leftovers, since i am out of bread, and have no lunch meats (so it’s not really worth it to make another loaf).


wagamama nostalgia

so, tonight it started--i did my first recipe from the wagamama book. obviously it was chicken toma rice. the recipe was easy and elegant. i did a nice mise en place and ALMOST had it under control until i realized that i forgot about my mushrooms. again. (i had also meant to put them in my rainbow rice last night, and forgot. note to self: don’t leave tofu in the rice cooker for 2 hours. it gets soggy. and don’t EVER use sushi rice for the rainbow rice recipe again. it also gets soggy.)

the sauce was nice; it had a tang, it had some cling and some body (presumably because of the cornstarch). i think i might have let the egg cook too long, since i recalled the sauce being more transparent than gray, but overall it was a nice flavor. next time, i need to slice the mushrooms instead of throwing them in whole, and i need to add the sesame seed oil at the end instead of at the beginning. with the egg. i want to see if that changes the result i got with the sauce.

i decided on an ice cream flavor for tomorrow: cannoli. i was originally going to go straight into the low-fat variations, but i found hand-dipped ricotta at whole foods tonight and couldn’t get the image of how creamy and flavourful it would be in the ice cream. so, should i come across some good fruit on sunday at the farmers market, i will try the low-fat techniques on that. either that or do a sorbet.

tomorrow night, lasagna. i think i’ll try that with yogurt cheese instead of ricotta. i want to see what kind of flavor that is, and i really do want to do low-fat alternatives wherever possible. i did fall off my little food wagon this week, with my brie calzone and the fries at lunch on thursday and all of the sandwiches. and i was out of fruit for almost the entire week. on the other hand, i was also good with my running and yoga. it’s all about finding the balance, and i’m still working on it.

bonus note: i tried out the breadmaker this week and it worked like a charm. made a really nice honey wheat loaf that tasted delightful with the PBJ sandwiches i made as well as with the nutella. i’ll either do french toast for breakfast with the last few slices or use it instead of a hamburger bun with my teriyaki burger on sunday night.

last night i did japanese salt-grilled chicken in an apple-soy glaze. the results were...mixed. on a few bites, i could taste a nice hint of apple, but mostly the chicken (i had broiled it) was dry.


best recipe and best light recipe

i'm so stoked about my new recipes from Food Network; i found a ton of salads, sandwiches, and burgers that should keep me going brilliantly through the summer. i tried the tagine-style chicken last night, and it was good, but the chicken got a bit dried out. the raisins provided a surprisingly welcome bit of sweetness, but the sauce didn't thicken quite the way i would have expected it to. i made some couscous using chicken stock as an accompaniment, and i'm picturing a leftover sandwich wrap or pita. yum.

note to self: the proscuitto-parm cream sauce pasta is NOT MEANT FOR REHEATING. ew. it was slimy, gross, and turning green. vomit.

i set up a google calendar to help me keep track of my appointments, menus, and goals. i feel good about its potential to help me stay organized and focused.

i got two new cookbooks yesterday, the best recipe book and the best light recipe book. they're both solid; the former is very basic, but offers some excellent suggestions. the later basically takes the former and lightens it, which i think i will find more helpful in the long run. my current plan is to compare the recipes in the book with the ones in my database, and add notes accordingly.

eagerly awaiting the arrival of my wagamama cookbooks, and hoping that UPS was persuaded by my note this morning to leave my packages for me.

i'm out of fruit and this leave me very sad. i really want to make some bread tonight; i would kill for a PBJ right now. i've got a ton of snacks right here, but they're mostly chocolate and cookies and after my super-cream-laden lunch (steak/brie wrap and some of the prosc.parm. pasta), not to mention my plan for the apple-brie calzone as dinner, i was hoping to stay light. maybe some yogurt or a smoothie as dessert, and a glass of juice with dinner, will help me repent.

did a tranquil space yoga class last night after walking/running home from work (which i don't recommend while in flat sandals, but could be a good idea for later). my sun salute is definitely getting stronger, although i'm still having trouble properly angling my back for my down dog. my balance was COMPLETELY out of whack, and i was so dehydrated that i almost blacked out during a camel. my bridge was good. i've decided that i'd like to try and do a review for myself of each class, finding one or two things that i really felt good about and thinking about ways to i improve the other ones. i'm also hoping that my fitness calendar will help me supplement my yoga classes with more running, which i've slacked off on recently, and incorporate some weight training and cindy crawford workout-esque movements into my overall system.


getting ready for summer

so, i’m gearing up. i ordered my ice cream maker from amazon. i made a shopping list of smoothie ingredients. i’m scouring the web for chicken, pasta, and potato salads. i’m prepping to go crazy with the breadmaker. i’m stoking up on fruit.

bring it on. :-)

i’ve added an absolute slew of recipes to my macgourmet, mostly sandwiches and other similar things.
i think i should make more lists, organizing food by seasons...hmmm. something to consider.

my buttermilk chocolate cake came out as perfection last weekend. michael suggested that i should make a fruit salad and top it with the leftover pastry cream. yum. and i finally got a chance to try the pasta with proscuitto-parm cream sauce and it was TO DIE FOR. i reconstituted some dried porcini mushrooms and added those to the mix...divine.

today i had a major find--wagamama publishes cookbooks! i ordered both of them, in hopes of tracking down my beloved chicken tama rice, but i had to order them from the UK and even though the website said that it would dispatch within 24 hours, my email confirmation says it won’t ship until the end of the month.

boo. but it’s still better than only getting my chicken tama rice on the rare occasions i get to visit england.


farmers market!

new favourite way to spend the sunday mornings....cooked stir fry with fresh chicken AND mushrooms, poached it in the donburri soup mixture and then stir-fried the mushrooms with some cashews in teriyaki sauce. YUM.

nothing else to report. i had another good week of sandwiches and finally used up the pita, wraps, and cold cuts. had sweet potato (roasted) fries with lunch today, and there was a huge difference from the time i tried it with yams. i got carried away with the cayenne pepper, though, and couldn’t finish the fries after i didn’t have burger to wash it down with anymore.

i got more of the strawberries--only ones ever i’ve actually liked and been able to eat. i also stocked up on fruit.


potato soup

i finally found something i can do with sweet potatoes--two potato soup! it was delicious--a few small sweet potatoes, a russet potato, some onion, garlic, broth, pureed and simmered with cream. topped with--of all things--an apple! i’ve been eating it all week and it’s been excellent. i am now feeling bold enough to use the rest of the sweet potatoes to make sweet potato fries. i’ve realized that on my previous try, i used yams, which may have accounted for why they were gross.

i’ve had a great sandwich week. monday i went to whole foods and stocked up on goodies like pitas and wraps and some lettuce and the spoils, combined with the cold cuts i got at wegman’s two weeks ago, have yielded excellent results: corned beef, turkey, and jack on a pita; turkey, gouda, apple, bacon in a wrap. tomorrow i’m considering ham and brie on the whole wheat bread.

saturday i’m thinking some french toast with the aforementioned bread. maybe a farmers market on sunday? and of course another go at cleaning out the fridge.


passover recovery

it’s been ages, but i will attempt to atone for some of my recent sins (in failing to write) with an entry on food and how hungry i was during passover.

i managed, for the first time ever, to eat a diet that resembled actual food for an entire week. i now know that i can actually eat all of the fruit i usually make myself purchase, and that i can add green beans and snow peas to my usual mushrooms on the shopping list. now that the weather is nicer, i should consider adding cucumbers, but i don’t want to get ahead of myself.

i also did admirably with egg salad, potato salad, and chicken salad, and while i don’t see myself keeping them constantly in the refrigerator, they were valuable allies in the fight to stave off starvation.

my goal now is to repopulate the refrigerator, which i finally broke down and cleaned out two weeks ago. it’s already disgusting again. now that i have the zipcar, i think i am going to go out to wegman’s and scope out the possibilities for fresh meat, produce, bread, and REGULAR food instead of the organic fouforra at whole foods.

i need to re-stock the freezer in terms of pizza dough, cookie dough, and, hopefully, danish dough. i feel ready to try it again. i feel ready to have it succeed. i am armed, at last, with my trusty empire red kitchen aid mixer.

i’m thinking risotto for the weekend--i have stock i want to use, a hunk of mozzarella cheese, the parmesan cheese, and some proscuitto with my name on it. i also want to pour through giada’s family dinners because damn, that book is inspired. it goes perfectly with everyday italian. it’s high on my priority list for adding to my macgourmet. maybe a lasagna for tomorrow night--again, the mozzarella. can’t decide. but i need to back away from the asian for a weekend. i did a lot of asian the weekend before passover and while it wasn’t a total bust it was also too much all in one go after the asian weekend with michael. the spring rolls, alas, were problematic. i need to try the rice wrappers instead of the egg-roll-style wrappers i attempted to fry as i waited for ron and camille to get out of the shower, or whatever it is they do together, and get their butts over to the apartment. i also seriously overcooked the duck breasts in attempting to stir-fry them with the hoisin.

the bulgogi, though, is about as good as it’s going to get. it melts. i’ve had better luck when i let it marinate longer, again thanks to ron and camille, than the minimum half-hour michael and i did when i tried the recipe at his house.